A Regional Lead/Moderation System for Edits/Portals/etc.
One of my biggest items on my wishlist since the beginning of Prime submissions and the onset of supremely bad title capitalisations is some sort of Regional Lead moderation system similar to Google Map Maker (now retired). Hear me out for a moment.
As someone who has a particularly bad OCD, portal quality of submissions within Redacted were at an acceptable state because most of the time they were either auto-corrected, capitalised the first letter of each word, and had spellcheck functionality. Since the beginning of Prime, plenty of submissions have been going through the system with horrific capitalisation, and when trying to correct them often end up failing and having edits come back as rejected.
Without fail, every single month one of my community groups would post a certain local portal called "Well stattion drive station" and people will laugh at the poor spelling and capitalisation. This can under-represent Niantic's products as a whole and spark concern about the due diligence of using spellcheck, without realising to a potential customer that the majority of the expansion of the Wayfarer database is crowd-sourced. One of the things to drive me over the top is when the below wayspot was featured this week. It's as if a primary school student had composed the description.
Why is this important?
Niantic's greatest asset is the Niantic Wayfarer program, and the millions of waypoints that the portal/stop database contains. Aside from the fake, questionable and clearly fabricated candidates, there are some great existing waypoints. I wouldn't make a grand estimate, but recently I feel that the general quality of representation of portals have decreased, and this can lead to the database/portal network/etc. being undermined and ridiculed.
What I'm referring to is inaccuracy, spelling mistakes, poor grammar, misrepresented portals and dangerously placed portals. For many of these factors, they may fail in several elements during the vetting process, but the core aim of the Wayfarer program is to determine whether nominated candidates should be a waypoint or not. Quality indicators, such as having a succinct title, being accurately located, being grammatically correct, having no reference to any lore (to allow for clear cross-platform gaming; no one will probably know what XM is if a Pokemon Go player has never played Ingress), and being generally appropriate.
These "quality indicators" or standards aren't set in stone. In the review process, reviewers at the title are only poised with the information: "Title should not contain inappropriate text. Description is not required." There are defined ratings for location and accessibility, but the weakness lies usually in the input of text. Sure, this can be rectified by submitting a portal/waypoint edit, but the diligence of reviewers does not always lie within correct sentence structure, capitalisation or grammar. I've had quite a couple of edits rejected even though they clearly had proper nouns uncapitalised or a variety of spelling mistakes. This is rather reactive, rather than making a proactive approach.
What could we do?
A secondary platform, that works almost identically to Google Maps but for waypoints in Niantic's database could be used to seek out poorly made waypoints. This can alternatively also see all existing waypoints on a map, not just the specific waypoints that are not shown in Pokemon Go. And all it would require is a Google account to access the map. This is only a platform where people can see existing waypoints, but its function could be expanded beyond being just a map. It would centralise functions away from its existing games such as Ingress and Pokemon GO, and all functionality would be on this app/program. No links or fields, no Pokestops/gyms, no fortresses or greenhouses. Just a whole map of existing waypoints to view, edit and explore. More on this later.
But the main thing I want to emphasise in this post is a sort of Regional Lead function or privilege. These would be given to certain players who evidently have a passion or resolve to keep the portal network at a high quality. Their functions would include, but are not limited to:
- Editing existing waypoints on the Wayfarer database instantly without going through the review process. I know Niantic staff tend to rename close duplicates to keep the Wayfarer database populated, e.g. two churches with the exact same name (e.g. St. Patrick's Church were marked as a duplicate, and the one marked got renamed to "St. Patrick's Church Clock")
- Intercepting insufficient or questionable titles or descriptions during the review process to make a previously questionable nomination much more easier to be suitable, such as removing a nominator's initials in their candidate, removing emojis, or having a really bad portal title edited during the process.
- Moving portals away from roads, dangerous places, or expediting good edits within Wayfarer.
- A direct or specialised contact with Niantic for these people/regional leads.
There is an expectation that strict criteria to nominate or delegate such advanced Wayfarer powers to these potential Regional Leads would be stringent and be subject to an NDA. That these people selected must also be purely neutral in whichever game they play and be accountable for one another, whether they were making questionable edits or not.
But Niantic's Wayfarer program and their expansive database of waypoints is their bread and butter that can open up countless possibilities to whichever AR/location-based game they desire. Having a succinct, and a professional, presentable database can entice multitudes of people, from artists hosting their works of murals on the database, to being a whole repository of sculptures and plaques that are properly named and acknowledged. Being free of spelling errors and being a wealth of information that both people external to Niantic's gaming influence, and current players can effectively learn so much from just having a real description.
Niantic's waypoint database is one of their best assets that has a value beyond comprehension. Anyone should be willing to contribute to a global database. But to keep it all in a high standard is something I would adore to uphold. It's disappointing seeing entire towns lack capitalisation in any of their waypoints, and others being part of the platform would be questioning it too.
It's time to take control of the quality and set the standard for these waypoints. And seek out those in the community who share the same sentiment.
...to be continued.
Thank you for reading.